Image for representation Photograph:( AFP )
Mexico's official Covid death toll of more than 230,000 is one of the world's highest, but new cases and deaths have been trending lower for several months
The first cruise ship in more than a year docked at Cozumel island on Mexico's Caribbean coast on Wednesday, greeted by mariachi music and a banner reading: "Welcome back."
The Adventure of the Seas arrived from the Bahamas with around 1,000 passengers on board -- a sight for sore eyes for a tourist industry battered by the pandemic.
A group of passengers, mostly from the United States, disembarked to explore the island, braving rain brought by a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico.
Michael Williams, a 62-year-old retiree, said it was his first trip since the pandemic began and felt like an "exciting adventure."
Some 94 per cent of the passengers have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, while the remainder are under the age of 16, said Alberto Munoz, vice president for Latin America at cruise operator Royal Caribbean.
Cozumel is usually a major stop on cruise itineraries and other operators are also expected to make a comeback in the coming months.
Celebrity Cruises will return in June, followed by Carnival Corp. in July, with stops in Cozumel and Mahahual further along the coast, said Dario Flota, director of the tourism promotion board in Quintana Roo state.
Quintana Roo, home to a string of top resorts including Cancun, remains at a high level of alert due to the pandemic, in contrast to many parts of the country.
Mexico's official Covid-19 death toll of more than 230,000 is one of the world's highest, but new cases and deaths have been trending lower for several months.
Before the pandemic, the cruise industry was Cozumel's main economic activity, with more than 100,000 people dependent on it to some extent, either directly or indirectly, according to officials.
Joel Dzib, who earns a living transporting tourists, said he felt more optimistic about the future with the return of cruise ships following a tough 2020.
"I had to sell a property. It was difficult for us, but the important thing is that we're moving forward," he said.